Greytown resident Gary Hewson, back row, right, says recreation is “fundamentally essential”, and sports projects should not be part of any potential post-lockdown spending cuts. PHOTO/FILE

Recreational green spaces were “essential” for health and well-being as people recover from the covid-19 lockdown.

And a project to deliver permanent recreation spaces to Greytown should not be cut back as part of cost savings, a sports leader and psychologist said.

Gary Hewson, board member of the town’s sports and leisure society, said recreation was important to people’s health and mental well-being and was more important than ever as people sought to keep their spirits up during and after the pandemic outbreak.

A Team Greytown project group made up of Greytown Sports and Leisure Society, Kuranui College, Greytown Rugby Football Club and Greytown Bowls Club, worked with South Wairarapa District Council, and other clubs and organisations to work on an initiative, included in the authority’s annual plan published this week.

The project seeks green space allocated for housing to establish a community sports hub in the centre of the town and build a community recreation and events centre in partnership with Kuranui College.

The settlement has a fast-growing population and sports clubs in the area have long lobbied SWDC for help, with rents being raised as land values escalated.

The multimillion-dollar Orchards retirement complex on the town’s eastern flank would bring even more people in, and they would need recreational opportunities within walking distance, Hewson said.

“Our sports participation is increasing, and our population is growing faster than any of the other [South Wairarapa] towns.”

“We have significantly less recreational and green space when compared to those towns. It’s not about us wanting extras, from that point of view, it’s about equity and meeting what is a huge demand from the population.

“The last thing we need is a reduction in these types of facilities for people, when our society is trying to prevent mental health harm to all age groups.

“When we think about green space and sports and recreation, people tend to think about children, and people in their 20s and 30s. That’s not what the evidence base says at all. These services will be used by the whole of Greytown, from toddlers to seniors.”

Hewson said that the project may be perceived as a Greytown-only project, but the tie-in with the college should provide benefits that would be felt across the district.

A feasibility study showed that the proposed Kuranui Community Recreation and Events Centre would cost the council more than $4 million to build by themselves, therefore the $1 million council contribution for the plan is an “an absolute bargain” for the district, he said.

“The good thing there is that it’s not just for Greytown. It’s a facility for the district. It’s a district school.”

Hewson said the mental health aspects of exercise outweighed the short-term economic benefits cutting back on the project would provide.

“Particularly in times of general difficulty and community difficulty, if those resources were missing and the ability to access them easily and cheaply, if not free, would be absolutely detrimental to the health and well-being of our community.

“When you take green space, recreation, community facilities, which is what the plan we put to the council is about, and you put it in the context of physical health and mental well-being, and the potential for elevated risk, you’re not talking about a nice to have.

“You’re talking about something that’s fundamentally essential for human beings.”

These kinds of facilities can “buffer” people against mental ill health, and even help prevent suicidal behaviour, Hewson said.

The SWDC annual plan consultation opened yesterday, and submissions close on May 24.